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What has CEN achieved in this Parliament?

As Parliament gets ready to dissolve for the general election, the coming weeks promise a flurry of campaigning and policy announcements. The environment will, no doubt, form an important part of the debate, with issues like water quality and energy security at the forefront.

John Flesher | Deputy Director

But with this parliament coming to a close, we are also looking back on everything CEN has achieved in the last few years. We have not, as is the nature of campaigning, won the argument for every policy we’ve advocated, and there remains a massive amount still to do for the environment after the forthcoming election, but we can reflect with pride on the efforts of our network.

Of course, so much of what we have achieved could not have been done without CEN’s parliamentary caucus and the fantastic MPs whom it comprises. Our caucus was started in 2018, with around a dozen MPs. As this parliament comes to a close, it now numbers well over 100 MPs and more than 20 peers, with more than 50 of our alumni now serving in government. The membership of the caucus spans all parts of the conservative tradition and all parts of the UK. It is said that this makes the CEN caucus the biggest such group in the House of Commons.

Some of the caucus’s members have worked with us on specific issues; others have championed a wide range of environmental causes. Together, they have done fantastic work to promote conservative environmentalism like never before, leaving our country in a greener and more resilient state for future generations.

The caucus has led the Conservative charge in favour of climate action. It was CEN MPs Simon Clarke and Alok Sharma who led the campaign to lift the de facto ban on new onshore wind in England, making it easier to roll out more of this cheap, homegrown energy. More recently, the government’s adoption of a carbon border adjustment mechanism to ensure that high carbon imports from overseas do not undercut domestically produced goods stemmed from a long campaign by CEN MPs including Jerome Mayhew and John Penrose.

The caucus has made huge strides on protecting the natural environment too. The government’s landmark Blue Belt Programme was born out of CEN’s campaigning efforts, and was expanded again earlier this year in South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, thanks to the efforts of MPs including Selaine Saxby and Robert Buckland. Numerous caucus members played their part in strengthening the Environment Act, on issues ranging from water to plastics, as well as the 2030 target to halt species decline. And CEN MPs Caroline Ansell, Siobhan Baillie, and Sally-Ann Hart were the leading Conservatives in the cross-party campaign for a natural history GCSE, to enable the next generation to learn more about our environment.

As some MPs retire from Parliament now, choosing not to fight the election, we pay tribute to the 27 CEN MPs who are standing down. In particular, we acknowledge the outstanding contribution of Philip Dunne, who has been a fount of wisdom as chair of the Environmental Audit Committee and a doughty champion for action to improve water quality; Chris Grayling, a proud advocate for action to prevent deforestation and illegal fishing and winner of this year’s Sam Barker Memorial Award for Conservative Environmentalism; Alok Sharma, who led global climate efforts at COP26 and passionately articulates the case for climate action; and George Eustice, who implemented landmark post-Brexit reforms to farming payments as DEFRA secretary.

This is not to mention the sterling campaigning efforts of MPs including Steve Brine, Greg Clark, Tracey Crouch, Jo Gideon, James Grundy, Stephen Hammond, Trudy Harrison, Oliver Heald, Pauline Latham, and Tim Loughton. And we cannot possibly ignore the groundbreaking work on nature-friendly farming and environmental regulation done by Michael Gove, a longstanding supporter of CEN’s work, as Environment Secretary, as he stands down at the election. Parliament and the environment will be poorer without them all.

Whatever the result of the election, conservative environmentalism has never been more needed. For the sake of maintaining public support for ambitious climate action and restoring nature, and ensuring that it is the private sector and the free market that drive down the cost of the transition for consumers, conservatives must continue to be at the forefront of the debate on the environment, championing the policies we need to meet our targets and grasp a greener, more secure future. We have come a long way, but there is so much more to do.


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